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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Holds News Conference With European Leaders

Aired May 2, 2002 - 13:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also keeping a close eye on the East Room of the White House. Just about five minutes ago, President Bush came out. He's meeting there today, now meeting reporters in the East Room with several leading members of the European Union; Kofi Annan, the secretary- general of the UN expected there; the foreign minister from Russia as well. All this group is gathering there to talk about the latest situation in the Middle East.

We know the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, is expected there Tuesday of next week. And the word out of Israel today, anyway, is that the prime minister will bring a proposal for a physical separation between Palestinians and Israelis. What that all entails is not clear just yet. But certainly, this has been a meeting that has been highly anticipated at the White House, and certainly back in the Middle East.

Let's get to the East Room right now, listen in to see what we can find out about the latest crisis.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ROMANO PRODI, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: We -- there are also some cases (ph) in which we have difference still. For example, on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of U.S. safeguards, which we believe are certainly harming us, on the possibility of short-term rebalancing. But we have agreed that discussion should continue without any prejudice to our respective rights under WTO.

We both intend to play it by the WTO rules. And so I think that even in this sphere we shall demonstrate friendly way of working. I want to praise the president of the United States for the leadership he's showing on a problem that is certainly difficult. You know, on the export subsidies and all the problems that are linked to that.

And, you know, I want to end just with one reflection.

I think that everybody in America should consider what we are doing now in Europe, what we are trying to do in this great 2002. Euro is now the currency of 12 nations. We will soon enlarge European Union to embrace 10, I hope, 10 new countries before the end of the year. And we are also working on the convention to reform our institutions.

The democratic unification of our continent is happening, and it is an enormous effort, and this is really the end of the end of the end of the Cold War. And I hope that what we are doing is appreciated for the dimension of the problem, if you consider the difference of income, the difference of tradition, the difference of habits of the 25 countries that now we shall have together inside the European Union. So what we present here is really a new Europe.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, President.

I think we got time for three questions. Makes sense that American ask a question, than Jose Maria will call on somebody and President Prodi will call on somebody. And then we've all got to go our respective ways.

QUESTION: Despite the existence of what you called some signs of progress in the Middle East in the long month since your Rose Garden statement, neither side has fully complied. Just yesterday, Ariel Sharon scuttled your push for a U.N. peace mission to Jenin, and Yasser Arafat called the Israelis terrorists, Nazis and racists, and yet there have been no consequences for defying you.

QUESTION: Are you open to cutting off U.S. aid to either Israel or the Palestinians, and are there any consequences for those who thumb their nose at the president of the United States?

BUSH: In this world, there are people who think that glass is half empty or half full. I tend to look at it as half full. I'm optimistic we're making good progress.

After all, a week ago there were -- Yasser Arafat was boarded up in his building in Ramallah, a building full of evidently German peace protesters, and all kinds of people. They're now out. He's now free to show leadership to lead the world.

We're making good progress. There's a lot to be done. We're dealing with centuries and years of hatred, and I understand that. But I am pleased that the Arab world is responding. Had great visits with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. They're, according to some American newspapers, they're, you know, very much engaged, and I appreciate that. I'm pleased with that. I think that's a positive development.

I'm absolutely convinced it's going to require the efforts of the Saudis and the Jordanians and the Egyptians to help cement a lasting peace. And the crown prince is following up on his initiative, and that's positive development.

I think it's very important for Chairman Arafat to show the world that he's capable of leading.

As I said in my remarks in the Rose Garden about a month ago -- which, by the way, in terms of the Middle East, isn't all that long a period of time, in my judgment -- that he has been disappointing, he has disappointed. He's had some chance to grab the peace and hasn't done so in the past. And therefore, he has let down the Palestinian people. Now is a chance to show he can lead.

And of course, I placed responsibilities on Israel, as well.

And I look forward to continuing my discussions with world leaders. Part of the importance of meeting with Jose and Romano was to talk about a way forward. And as Jose Maria mentioned, the secretary of state is going to be talking with the ministers of the quad about a way forward. I'll be doing the same thing with King Abdullah and Prime Minister Sharon, as we come up with a way to cement a vision of peace in place.

But it starts with people assuming responsibilities, and people are beginning to assume responsibilities. And that's why I'm optimistic progress is being made.

Jose?

QUESTION: My question is for both presidents. The American press and the public opinion in America is still referring to ETA just like a band who is fighting for its independence in Spain.

QUESTION: I wonder if United States is staying committed to fight terrorists in Spain as much as about fighting terrorists in other parts of the world. And what can you do to help Spain fight? And I'd also like to know your opinion about the way this topic is treated in America.

BUSH: Well, let me start with that, and then you can finish this...

JOSE MARIA AZNAR, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER AND EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: No, no, no...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: It's your country.

(LAUGHTER)

When I was last in Spain, I talked about this very subject. And I spoke -- this was before September the 11th -- and I spoke very clearly about my friend's efforts to fight terrorist activity within the country of Spain. I just want to remind you of the timing, that I made a public statement about terrorist activities in the country of Spain prior to my country being attacked. So terrorist activities within the borders of Spain has been on my mind.

It is -- we stand ready to help the president. If the president asks for help, the United States of America is more than willing to provide that help. We're doing great cooperation with our friends in Spain. We share intelligence. We talk about arrests that we've made. I mean, we're close friends and allies. And Jose Maria knows this very well. I'm a phone call away.

But terror is terror, and we must fight it wherever it exists.

HEMMER: We're going to step away from the East Room right now. Clearly, the majority of the discussion's revolving around the Middle East crisis right now, with European leaders meeting there with the president today. Certainly, it's been a hot topic, and a much anticipated meeting, as well. President Bush once again reaffirming not only to the Israelis, but also to the Palestinians that he expects more progress. In his words, quote, "There's a lot to be done." And indeed there is.

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